People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 21

June 02,2002

BJP NCERT Syllabus Unacceptable

Nalini Taneja


EDUCATION Ministers of sixteen states walked out of the 38th annual general meeting of the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) in New Delhi on Sunday, May 26 2002, to protest the Council's bid to misrepresent their stand vis-a-vis the National Curriculum Framework for School Education (NCFSE) in parliament and the supreme court.


As per the affidavit submitted by the NCERT and the Human Resource Development ministry in the supreme court in a public interest litigation against the curriculum, approval of the members had been obtained for the then proposed NCFSE at the general body meeting held on December 2000, and through wide discussions with academics, journalists and other concerned citizens. This is an absolute lie.


The new syllabus being foisted on the nation is neither based on consensus nor consultations. Eminent academics cited by the NCERT as having been “consulted” have already denied so, among them being Patricia Oberoi and Dipankar Gupta of JNU, and also V Krishna Iyer. Patricia Oberoi has even gone to court on the matter. In all cases either a copy of the syllabus being sent, or press releases to journalists, or invitations to attend seminars in the NCERT was claimed as “wide consultations”, endorsement, sanction and “approval”.


More important the new curriculum, representing a reversal of the national education policy, is being effectively implemented through the new NCERT syllabus bypassing parliament, the CABE, and state education ministers’ consent despite strong criticisms and protests over the authoritarian methods adopted and the content of the changes being implemented.




At the general body meeting of the NCERT for this year, the sixteen education ministers lodged their strong and absolute disapproval with regard to both procedure and content of the new syllabus in unambiguous terms that leave no ground for misrepresentation by this lying government. Though confirmation of the minutes of the December 2000 annual general meeting (at which the approval of the members was supposedly obtained) was listed first on the agenda, it could come up for discussion only a good two hours after the meeting began. After a round of heated discussions, during which the Council officials led by the HRD Minister Murli Manohar Joshi refused to budge from their ideological positions, the sixteen education ministers walked out of the meeting.


The walk out assumes great importance in the context of the supreme court stay order, in response to a writ petition filed by concerned citizens, that NCERT textbooks in social sciences and Hindi cannot be printed until the mandatory procedures for approval of syllabus have been gone through. While other bodies are yet being kept away, the annual general body meeting was something that the government could not avoid without provoking other writ petitions. It is a formal disagreement expressed by a majority of the state education ministers in a meeting involving state education ministers whose approval is necessary for a change in national education policy. It is a formal disagreement expressed moreover in the general body of the institution whose officials are the authors of the new syllabus and claim to represent its majority view. It is a reaffirmation that the social science syllabus already implemented from this session, although books in social sciences and history have not yet been printed (due to the Supreme Court directive), is unacceptable in the form that it is.




In keeping with the official pronouncements and the laid down guidelines in the NCF document, the new syllabus has done away with history as a separate subject for the classes IV to X (“reduced the burden of history”) to replace it with an “integrated” social science course The absence of a coherent history portion in the syllabus in actual fact increases the burden of history in the implications that it has for students and teachers of history. The chapters are introduced arbitrarily, and if the purpose of social sciences, minimally, is a critical evaluation/information of the past and present conditions of life on the basis of which a healthy attitude to one’s surroundings and peers may be inculcated, the syllabus fails miserably.


It is but obvious that an early uncritical, chauvinist and arbitrarily chopped indoctrination of tradition is hardly the best way to introduce a child to the wonders of the world or the achievements and trials of humankind. If anything there is a greater need today for generalities and a wider world canvas in order to give the child an idea of the vastness of human experience and of how much there is to learn and strive for rather than close all intellectual avenues by giving the impression that all the greatness lies with us and is already accounted for in our past. While all social sciences subjects pose mundane problems, resisting mention of the larger inequalities and conflicts and tension in society and polity, history chapters are remarkable in their unending saga of unproblematic glory disturbed only by foreign invaders.


Traditional customs, patterns of life are eulogised and the indigenous celebrated in comparison with the new and the “foreign”. There is a tilt in the study of the outside world towards themes that deal with nationalism. For example in the syllabus for Class VIII, the disintegration of the Moghul Empire and the rise and decline of the Maratha power is a rubric in the unit on ‘People and Society in the Modern World’ because it is a good way of pushing through the idea of Hindu struggle against ‘foreign’ rule, but the Russian revolution is not even mentioned etc. One could go on with such arbitrary selections that permeate the entire syllabus. The biased history is bound to weigh on the mind of the child much after he/she has completed school education, while arbitrariness in framing of topics, leaving out some at the expense of others, contributes to confusions and handicaps the child in making connections and a sense of the world, even as it makes the task of the teacher that much more difficult in situating events and developments.


Political science has undue references to terrorism and patriotism, and one can see in what direction such loaded emphases on these themes can be given in the NCERT produced books. There are almost no references to caste system and its evils, communalism in history and political science pertains to Muslim League with no mention of Hindu communal organizations, the attitude to tribals when referred to is patronizing as towards those less civilized, and syllabus certainly falls short on gender sensitivity and inculcation of mindsets that regard women as equal citizens.


In this context, the imitative expressed in the walk out by the sixteen education ministers at the NCERT general body meeting must be followed up by other forms of protests by concerned citizens if we are to succeed in stalling the implementation of the new NCERT syllabus as it exists. There is a great danger that while we are justifiably preoccupied with Gujarat, and now the war temper that the government is promoting with all its might through the media, the new syllabus, including the prejudice ridden proposed social sciences syllabus and textbooks, may just get implemented by default because we are too busy on other things. It would not be out of place to say in conclusion that without such a syllabus being in place in Gujarat for decades, the pogroms in Gujarat, would not have had the kind of acceptance that they do among a vast majority of the young people belonging to the Hindu community in Gujarat. That a fascist educational system has direct bearing on success of fascist politics is something we must never underestimate.